High Blood Pressure? 5 Things You Should Know About Exercise

(MSN Health) — Q. Is it safe to exercise if I have high blood pressure?

A. Yes! In fact, along with eating more plants and lowering sodium intake, getting regular exercise is an important lifestyle modification you should adopt if you have hypertension.

A person is considered to have pre-hypertension if resting blood pressure is 120-139/ 80-89, Stage 1 hypertension if blood pressure falls within the 140-159/90-99 range, and Stage 2 hypertension if numbers are 160 or greater/100 or greater. A person diagnosed with Stage 1 or Stage 2 hypertension is generally prescribed antihyperintensive medications, but increased physical activity is encouraged for people at all levels of hypertension.

What may seem odd is that blood pressure actually increases slightly during exercise. But, this acute effect of exercise is a normal response. As the body starts to move more vigorously, muscles and cells in the body require more oxygen. So the heart rate and breathing rate speed up to suck in more oxygen and distribute it throughout the body. Although heart rate can double, blood pressure typically only rises a bit. And it’s only the top number (systolic blood pressure) that tends to increase in response to physical activity. Systolic pressure reflects the force of the blood being pushed out into the arteries by the heart. But the rise is typically only slight because a fit person develops an improved capacity for the blood-vessel walls to expand to accommodate greater, faster and stronger blood flow. Conversely, after exercise, blood pressure can lower. This is known as post-exercise hypotension.

There is some concern that people with hypertension may not have the same compliance in their arterial walls and so may be at higher risk if blood pressure spikes during exercise. So, if you have high blood pressure, you should always get the OK from your doctor to exercise. And you may want to build up to higher intensities gradually, although it’s unclear whether intensities of exercise play a role in blood-pressure changes.

During exercise, the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) may stay the same or slightly decrease. If the diastolic number increases, this is a red flag that the exercise should be stopped, according to guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.

People who are taking blood-pressure medications such as vasodilators, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and similar meds may have a diminished blood-pressure response to exercise. Of course, most people who exercise do not check their blood pressure throughout the session. Blood pressure is typically only measured during clinical exercise testing. That’s why you need clearance from your doctor before you proceed.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 4.40 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...